The amendment to the labour law, which we have discussed extensively on the blog, including the introduction of the possibility of sobriety checks, remote working and the implementation of the work-life balance directive, is presented primarily in a positive light for employees, who gain a number of new rights. At first glance, this seems to be beneficial for them – the legislator (both European and Polish) strengthens their position as a subject of the employment relationship and supports the realisation of their entitlements. Does this mean that employee-fathers will start to make greater use of parental leave? Or are they at risk of discriminatory behaviour for this reason?
New entitlements for employee-parents
Due to the provisions of the work-life balance directive, employees who become fathers can take paternity leave under new rules, which we have mentioned on our blog, including in the article “Parental entitlements in the work-life balance directive“.
Under the new Labour Code regulations, the employee will also be entitled to a non-transferable 9-week parental leave, during which he will receive an allowance of 70% of the benefit base.
The employee-parent may also benefit from entitlements such as:
- flexible working time arrangements;
- safer and more predictable working conditions;
- care leave;
- remote working.
Purpose of the work-life balance directive
Leaving aside the purposive issues of the work-life balance directive, such as:
- encouraging workers who have become fathers to be with their newborn child early in life;
- equalising opportunities for women on the labour market;
- making it easier for women mothers to return to working life;
there are doubts as to whether the exercise of the above-mentioned entitlements by the employee-father will be positively perceived in his work environment.
Those who may potentially look unfavourably on such an employee may include:
It seems pertinent to ask – why would anyone restrict an employee from exercising their entitlement under the legislation?
Realities of the labour market and the system adopted
Unfortunately, not every person who cooperates with an employee who has become a father may look favourably on the fact of exercising the entitlements provided for in the amended Labour Code.
There is a strong belief in society that it is the woman who exercises her entitlements related to parenthood, while the man should focus on his professional life during this time, allowing him to support his (newly established) family. Will such a male employee want to use his entitlements for fear of losing his position at work or even losing his job itself?
Let us recall that ZUS statistics do not inspire optimism – only 1% of men take parental leave. Are the recent amendments to the labour law able to change these proportions?
The answer will probably come in the next few years, but it already seems that amending the Labour Code in isolation from changing the attitude of employers, co-workers, or even more broadly – society as a whole – will not help much, and favourable solutions will remain on paper only.
Certainly, the changes introduced by the legislator should be assessed positively from the point of view of the employee-father, as he has gained a greater opportunity than before to participate in the life of the newborn offspring, and to exercise parental entitlements.
However, although father-employees, in light of the amendments to the labour law, are the “winners” of the changes introduced, it is by no means certain that they will exercise their entitlements more often. For this reason alone, it is worth strengthening the awareness of both father-workers and their employers of the rights and obligations of each party in the employment relationship, in order to strengthen the culture and organisation of work in society, so as to allow father-workers to enjoy parenthood in peace, and mother-workers to facilitate the return to work and the reconciliation of private and professional life.
Paula Staszak-Urbańska, LL.M., Trainee attorney-at-law (PL)
Mateusz Turowski, Trainee attorney-at-law (PL)